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  • Midwives support calls for breastfeeding friendly workplaces

    Author: Karen Keast

The Australian College of Midwives (ACM) is one of about 120 organisations and companies across Australia accredited as a ‘breastfeeding friendly workplace’.

“With midwifery being a female-dominated profession, having a breastfeeding friendly work culture just makes sense,” ACM president, Professor Caroline Homer, said.

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“Not only is it important to protect breastfeeding for the known health benefits for mothers and babies but employers benefit too by retaining a valuable, skilled workforce.”

The Australian Breastfeeding Association runs an accreditation program for businesses wanting to support breastfeeding mothers in the workforce.

With statistics showing returning to work is the fourth highest reason for mothers of seven to 12-month-olds not continuing to breastfeed, more employers are providing mothers with a private, comfortable space to breastfeed or express breastmilk, approved lactation breaks, part-time or flexible work arrangements, and general workplace support.

As part of World Breastfeeding Week this week, breastfeeding stakeholder bodies across Australia and New Zealand are calling for employers to take up the gauntlet with breastfeeding policies and practices to enable mothers to continue to breastfeed when they return from maternity leave.

The Australian Breastfeeding Association (ABA) and the New Zealand Breastfeeding Authority (NZBA) have called for employers to protect, promote and support breastfeeding in the workplace through simple initiatives, such as providing a clean, private space where women can breastfeed or express their milk.

The ABA points to research that reveals in workplaces equipped with a breastfeeding policy, 61 per cent of mothers were exclusively breastfeeding their baby at the age of six months.

In comparison, only 34 per cent were exclusively breastfeeding at six months in workplaces where there was no breastfeeding policy or the mothers were unsure whether a policy existed.

“Studies have found that women who are supported in breastfeeding their babies by their employers are more likely to return to work after maternity leave,” ABA CEO Rebecca Naylor said.

The World Health Organisation recommends exclusive breastfeeding for babies to the age of six months, and then for breastfeeding to continue alongside solid foods up until the age of two years and beyond.

Statistics from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare’s Australian National Infant Feeding Survey show 96 per cent of mothers initiate breastfeeding before breastfeeding rates decline with 39 per cent of babies being exclusively breastfed to three months and 15 per cent to five months.

In New Zealand, the nation’s breastfeeding rates drop after a mother leaves hospital from 82 per cent to 49 per cent at six weeks after the birth and then reach 16.7 per cent at six months.

The NZBA is supporting a push to extend paid parental leave to 26 weeks after the government increased paid parental leave from 14 to 16 weeks in April, which is set to increase to 18 weeks next year.

ACM supports breastfeeding mothers with its Baby Friendly Health Initiative (BFHI) which recognises and awards accreditation to maternity facilities demonstrating best breastfeeding practice. There are now 75 BFHI accredited maternity facilities across Australia.

* ACM is offering its eLearning course, Supporting Women to Breastfeed, at a reduced rate for midwives registering during World Breastfeeding Week.


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Karen Keast

Karen Keast is a freelance health journalist who writes news and feature articles for HealthTimes.

Karen regularly writes for some of Australia’s leading health news websites and magazines.  In a media career spanning 20 years, Karen has worked as a senior journalist in newspapers and television. She has covered the grind of daily news and worked as a politics reporter at countless state and federal elections.

Since venturing into freelance writing five years ago, Karen has found her niche in writing about the health sector for editors, businesses and corporations.

Karen has interviewed the heads of peak health organisations in Australia and overseas, and written hundreds of news and feature articles covering the dedicated work of health professionals who tread the corridors of hospitals and health services, universities, aged care facilities and practices, day in and day out.

Follow Karen Keast on Twitter @stylemywords